Archaeological Geophysics Laboratory

Welcome to the Archaeological Geophysics Laboratory

This laboratory provides a technical research and graduate teaching concentration on the use of geophysical survey and remote sensing techniques to aid in archaeological fieldwork.

A full complement of geophysical instrumentation and computer processing support forms the nucleus of a new Archaeological Geophysics Laboratory housed in the William S. Webb Museum of Anthropology. Faculty, students, and research staff in the department are the primary users of this equipment; however, researchers in other UK departments and other Kentucky educational institutions may have access to this equipment for research purposes.

MALÅ GeoScience RAMAC™ GPR system with a 800 MHz antenna in use at Raven Run. (Photo Credit: Kentucky Archaeological Survey)


Geophysical survey refers to multiple techniques that measure variation in near-surface physical properties of the ground, such as mineral magnetics, electromagnetic conductivity, electrical resistance, and ground density. Buried features, like stone or brick foundations; variation in sedimentary structure and ground moisture, such as in archaeological deposits, trenches, mounds, and burial vaults; and other subsurface features have characteristic signatures that geophysical instruments can detect. Based on the measured variation in geophysical properties over a site, buried features and deposits can be accurately located and mapped without extensive excavation or other ground disturbing methods. Researchers can use the information acquired during a geophysical survey to design cost-effective excavation strategies, reveal large-scale community patterning, and identify culturally sensitive human burial sites.

Three dimensional representation of graves in the Prather Cemetery used as comparative samples for a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey at Raven Run Nature Sanctuary, Fayette County, Kentucky. Henry, Edward R. 2006. A Geophysical Survey of the Prather Property at Raven Run Nature Sanctuary, Fayette County, Kentucky. Kentucky Archaeological Survey Report No. 139. Lexington, Kentucky. 


Geophysical Equipment Available

  • Geonics EM38™ Ground Conductivity Meter with a DL720 datalogger.
  • Geoscan Research RM-15™ Advanced Resistivity Survey System with a MPX15 Multiplexer and PA20 Multiprobe Array.
  • Geoscan Research FM-256™ Magnetometer.
  • Malå GeoScience RAMAC/GPR™ with a single channel CUI control unit.
  • Malå GeoScience RAMAC/GPR™ with a multi-channel CUII control unit and XV11 monitor.
  • 100-800 MHz shielded antennas for use with either the CUI or CUII control units.

Computer and Software Support Available

  • Dell Latitude D820 Computer Notebook for in-field data acquisition.
  • Dell Precision 690 Computer Workstation dedicated to processing and visualization of geophysical data.
  • Geoplot 3.0 Software (Geoscan Research USA) for processing conductivity, resistivity, and magnetometer data.
  • Ground Vision™, Easy 3D™, and RadExplorer™ Software (Malå GeoScience) for acquisition, processing, and interpretation of GPR data.
  • GPR-Slice Software (Geophysical Archaeometry Laboratory) for 2D and 3D visulization of GPR data.

Current and Upcoming Projects

  • Structural mapping of prehistoric shell midden sites in the Green River region of central Kentucky.
  • Structural mapping of coastal shell midden sites and an early Spanish Mission site on Sapelo Island, Georgia.
  • Community structure of late prehistoric Fort Ancient sites in the Bluegrass and Eastern Mountains of Kentucky.
  • Identification of fortifications, prison foundations, and cemetery areas at Camp Nelson Civil War Park, Kentucky.
  • Geophysical survey of the Olmec site of Tres Zapotes, Veracruz.
  • Geophysical survey of pueblo sites in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
  • Geophysical survey of buried shell midden sites in the Falls of the Ohio River region of Indiana and Kentucky.
  • Geophysical survey of West Virginia frontier forts.

For further information on the Archaeological Geophysics Laboratory, e-mail Dr. George Crothers or call 859-257-1944.


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